Poker is an exciting card game played by groups of people. It is played from a standard pack of 52 cards (some variant games use multiple packs or add a few cards called jokers). The rules of poker vary between different games, but they all share certain essential features.

Players are dealt a hand of cards, and each player must decide whether to bet, fold or call. The game begins with an ante, usually a small amount of money that every player must put up.

Once the ante is in place, every player is given two hole cards. These cards can be seen only by their owner, and must not be revealed to any other player at the table.

The first player to put up the ante is the dealer, who will then deal cards faceup to each of the other active players. The dealer then takes a small bet called the “small blind” and the player to the left of him places a large bet, called the “big blind.”

After this, all players receive two more cards, and each of them can decide whether to call or raise. The player who makes the first bet is the “first bettor” and must bet at least an established minimum in each betting interval; he may also check.

During each betting interval, the highest-ranking poker combination in a player’s faceup cards wins. If two or more players have the same combination, ties are broken by the highest unmatched card or secondary pairs in a full house, and by the second-highest cards in a straight.

A standard hand of poker consists of five cards; the player with the highest hand wins. In some variants, the suit is not ranked, and all hands are considered to be of equal value.

In some versions, a wild card is used to substitute for any card in the hand. These are often one-eyed jacks, which can be used to make any combination of a straight, flush or full house.

The best hands are those that contain two or more pairs of cards. The ace can be high or low, and it may not wrap around (such as A-K-Q-J-T).

Another type of hand is the straight. A straight is a set of five consecutive cards, and it can consist of any suit.

If two straights have the same value, they split the pot.

The highest possible hand is a five-of-a-kind, and it beats any straight flush. A five-of-a-kind is formed by a player having a pair of any rank and any non-pair, with the highest rank being the pair.